Mildly Tipsy Hiking, or, A Salt Spring Island Weekend

If I had to summarize Salt Spring Island in a word or two, I’d use “delightfully kooky.” We were greeted at the Fulford ferry by our B&B host with a warm smile, and as we dragged our suitcases towards a dusty van she hollered, “I hope you don’t mind the back – I didn’t bother to put the seats back in.” What was in the van instead was about eight pounds of dirt and stone remnants, plus Steve, always the good sport.

Our host was kind and shared recommendations as we drove of places we should visit during our weekend stay on the island. We had planned to rent bikes and toodle around, but upon arrival at the B&B she insisted we take her van instead as we pleased. Being from Toronto and generally the type to insist on locking absolutely everything immediately, I was skeptical enough when she hopped out of the van and left the keys in the ignition. To hand over her only mode of transportation to two strangers she’d just met seemed ludicrous. But this was Salt Spring, home to some of the most laid-back and generous people I’ve met in my travels. So off we went in the van, after Steve dusted himself off and moved up front.

It was a warm Saturday and we had a hankering for wine. Once in Ganges we wandered the market and picked up picnic supplies – cheese, bread and apples. It was tasty and the views of the harbour with mountains nestled in the distance made for the perfect backdrop. But armed with a car and a limited window of time, we knew we had to get moving. Our first stop was Mistaken Identity Vineyards.

Glasses of wine on picnic table

After we sampled three red wines, we opted for a full bodied merlot and cracked it open on a picnic bench in the vineyard. In the warm sun I nursed a generous pour, savouring the flavours on my tongue as I soaked in the surroundings. I probably could have laid down on the bench and napped, but I’m sure the vineyard owners would have raised a few eyebrows and ushered me off the premises. Instead, we opted to drive over to the trailhead for Mount Erskine, which was standing guard over the vineyard and surrounding fields. Our host had recommended climbing the trail to the summit. “I think it’s a short climb,” she had said. Uh huh. I reluctantly left the bottle of merlot in the cup holder and off we went.

Never one to shy away from a mountain climb, Steve soldiered ahead like a machine as I huffed and puffed along. Three thoughts crossed my mind during those initial few minutes:

  1. “Damn girl, you’re out of shape. There’s hardly an incline here!”
  2. “Wait, this is at a higher altitude. Maybe you’re just winded from that.”
  3. “Maybe don’t knock back such a large glass of vino before hiking a mountain next time, champ.”

I’d like to say things got better, but damn that hike was long. And that mountain was actually high, who knew. It’s about a 400 m elevation game and a really steep climb. A pair of hikers making their descent gave us false hope with the ol’ “You’re almost there! Just a few more minutes!” Liars. By now I was concerned that I should have just brought the wine with me, for the van was very hot and the wine was probably uncomfortable. Then I remembered that the wine was not people and likely didn’t have feelings, and perhaps I should focus more on where my feet were moving.

Somehow I made it to the top. The views were well worth the effort:

Back of girl at top of mountain

Views from summit

Anxious to return the van, we hoofed it back down the mountain and I reunited with the merlot and promised to never leave it in a hot car again.

The rest of the weekend was spent being nice and lazy with books in the park, and eating more good food at the Tree House Café and El Loco Taco, a tasty Mexican food cart located right next to the Ganges marina. Time moves slowly on Salt Spring, and it’s well worth the visit to recharge your batteries.

Also the wine is excellent.

And the food.


Enjoying Wine at 30,000+ Feet

Sometimes a flight is long. Perhaps a long day was had prior to take-off, and you merely want to unwind. Or, perhaps, it’s a special occasion. Regardless, sometimes one just wants a glass of vino at 36,000 feet.

I’m certainly no aviation wine specialist but here are a few that I’ve sampled over the years:

American Airlines
I write this from what may be a relic from the 50s (but is in fact simply one of American’s antiquated McDonnell Douglas planes), nursing one of the most generous-sized bottles I’ve ever seen on a flight. It helps make you feel less depressed about your surroundings and the lack of entertainment options. It also helps muffle the sounds of screaming children and the engines, so it’s a win-win!

Glass size: two servings
What’s the pour: Coastal Ridge Merlot and Chardonnay
Cost: 7 bucks (US)
Good to know: A cheese plate is available to go with your wine. Or, if you’re stuffed from dinner like me, Almond M&Ms. Classy!

Air Canada
Air Canada offers complimentary vino when travelling overseas, a nice treat I discovered on a recent flight to Paris. Or, you can purchase options on shorter-haul domestic and US flights. If you’re soaking up the luxury of business class you’ll get a glass as well, however they won’t indulge you if it’s not an appropriate hour. My attempts for a poor woman’s mimosa were thwarted, ho hum.

Glass size: one serving
What’s the pour: Paul Mas white and red
Cost: $6.50 (Canadian) if you’re in economy on flights in Canada and the US, free in business and first class and on international flights
Good to know: the gluten-free crackers and cheese are always the first thing to sell out on flights. Lock eyes with your flight attendant ASAP if you want them.

Porter Airlines
Ahh, Porter. Your delicious pre-take-off lattes and shortbread are complimented nicely by your in-flight (free!) beverage offerings. Get that expansion approved please…

Glass size: one, but generous
What’s the pour: Jackson-Triggs Black Reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc/Cab Sauvignon. Good stuff.
Cost: free!
Good to know: the epic snack basket that comes around is stocked with nuts, cookies and Terra Chips. The perfect accompaniment to your beverage. Also there’s beer, and sometimes on a less busy flight you’ll get to “sample” both! Also they give you actual glasses, a nice touch.

Hawaiian Airlines
I’ve only flown them twice, but really enjoyed the service, snacks and complimentary wine. They also gave me two glasses of wine, which went nicely with the entire loaf of macadamia sweet bread I devoured on the flight back to California. It was a long flight. Don’t judge.

Glass size: one serving
What’s the pour: Red Tree Merlot and Chardonnay
Cost: free!
Good to know: if your flight’s in the morning you’ll get brunch with a delicious rum punch. Wine is only served on later flights. Also, macadamia all the things!

Have you enjoyed a good glass of wine in-flight? Share a comment below!